July 19, 2009
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.”
Jerry Bruckheimer is a household name in the entertainment industry. He has produced blockbuster movies like Top Gun and Pirates of the Caribbean. He has been equally successful in TVland, producing CSI and Amazing Race. Next week, Disney unveils G-Force, Bruckheimer’s stab at 3-D film. The movie has a highly unlikely cast: three guinea pigs, a fly, and a mole. Together, they are the G-Force: a covert government team of highly trained animal spies. The team includes a martial-arts expert, a transportation specialist, a tech geek and a literal fly-on-the-wall surveillance whiz. They are commanded by a highly-evolved rodent who is obviously intentionally named Darwin.
The fate of the world rests in the paws of G-Force. They must foil the attempts of an evil billionaire to dominate the world. OK, it is a kid’s movie, but it looks like fun, and it will probably make lots of money for the Disney people.
In this film, G-Force may stand for Guinea Pig Force, but in physics, G-Force is a measurement of the strength of force placed on an object. Basically, it is how many multiples of gravity (G) we feel. We walk the earth in 1G. If you are living in the International Space Station, you brush your teeth in 0G. Fighter pilots regularly face 7G’s of force when maneuvering aircraft at high speeds. If you ride the Kingda Ki roller coaster in New Jersey, you may feel up to 4G’s during those insane bends and curves.
G-Force is the irresistible power of pull. And that is what Christianity is about. Christianity is about a G-Force, a God Force, which is pulling the universe toward its destiny.
People often ask what is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Back in 1979 the first Star Trek movie hit the screens. It had one of the most unoriginal titles of all time: Star Trek the Motion Picture. Generally Star Trek fans, of which I am one, were disappointed in the movie—it was dull and slow—but even bad movies can sometimes make a good point. In the movie, a powerful energy cloud named V’ger is moving toward the earth destroying everything in its path. The starship Enterprise intercepts the cloud and is damaged by the encounter, however Kirk and Spock manage to communicate with V’ger and discover it to be an alien consciousness, which is moving across the galaxy collecting information. V’ger knows everything but does not know the purpose of anything; consequently it can only see futility and emptiness, which causes it to strike out with destructive fury. V’ger demands an answer to one question before it destroys. Is this all there is? You see, V’ger has collected most of the information that there is to have about our galaxy. It can tell you where all the stars are, where all the planets are, at any moment. It can tell you how fast the galaxy is traveling through space and how fast the galaxy is rotating on its axis. It can analyze events down to the smallest particles. It is the most complete scientific encyclopedia ever assembled, and all this knowledge has made V’ger the most powerful entity in the galaxy, but it has not answered the basic question that every human being asks at some point in life. What is the purpose to all this? Or as V’ger asks, Is this all there is? Just collecting information—is that all?
Now you might say, Well, all that is from a movie and, as I have already indicated, not even a very good movie. The plot rapidly falls to pieces and no attempt is made to really answer V’ger’s question—because if you think about it there really is only one answer. This is a God question. This question can only be answered if you believe in God.
Make no mistake about it. If there is no God, then the universe is not going anywhere, and there is no meaning to life. Life is a bubble thrown up by the froth of chemical stews on this planet. The bubble will inevitably pop, life will vanish back into the chemicals from which it came, and the universe will go on as if nothing ever happened. Your life, my life, have no significance whatsoever. That is pretty much what you have to believe if there is no God.
But of course there is a God and God created all that exists. God created for a purpose, and your life and my life have meaning within that purpose.
God did not create like a kid on the beach who throws up a sand castle and then idly knocks it down. God had a definite result in mind when he began the process of creation.
And that process of creation is still going on. Sometimes we have the idea that God created everything at some specific date in the past and God has not done much of anything ever since, but our science shows us a very different picture. Stars are being formed, solar systems are being formed, right now. On our own planet, in our own lives, we see constant change. Older people are always boring younger people with stories about how much things have changed since they were kids. In fact, the joke is that there is one thing you can be sure of, if you want to prophesy about the future, is that things change. And all this change is in the providence and plan of God.
Human progress, scientific progress, technological progress is in the plan of God. Look at what is happening around us. Everybody comments about how we are all being drawn closer together by various communication networks. This process has been going on for a long time but it has really accelerated in the last generation, even in the last few years.
I suppose it began with the invention of writing about 3500 b. c. People who could read and write could communicate over long distances and could form a sort of network for the exchange of ideas. But the process really got going only fairly recently. In the 1830’s we began to develop a telegraph system. With the dots and dashes of Morse code, we could instantly send messages to distant places—provided we had strung a telegraph line to those places first.
By the way, at one time in my life, when I got an advance Amateur Radio license, I could send and receive over 20wpm in Morse Code—which is pretty good. I was proud of that, still am, even though today I could not send one word per minute.
But to continue, in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. Wow did that ever change things. We spent the next generation covering every town with wires so everybody could talk on the phone.
Then we had radio, then TV. Do you remember this? Back in the sixties and seventies, we only had 3 channels on TV and the national news came on only once a day—6:30. That was the most unified moment in America. Everyone watched the evening news. By the way, Walter Cronkite died yesterday. He was the central figure in that unified American moment. He was the top anchorman on the top rated TV network, which at the time was CBS. But a TV network is only half a network in that it only works from the TV to the viewer.
Then came communication satellites, cable TV, cell phones, the internet, text messaging, email, twitter, facebook, youtube. Today it seems like every 6 months or so a new twist on social networking comes out. Now all of this is not necessarily equally useful, and some of it may be completely frivilous, but it seems obvious to everyone that we are developing layers of planetary communications, and this is in the providence of God. What is happening is that humankind is becoming conscious of itself and moving toward its final destiny in Christ.
Now I should give credit here. The person who did most of the original thinking about how the universe, and our planet in particular, is moving toward Christ was a French Catholic scientist named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was born in 1881 and died in 1955. His thought was considered so radical at the time that the Vatican refused to allow him to publish any of his theological works, but when he died he gave his extensive writings to Protestants and they published his works. You know those Protestants. They will publish anything. Just joking.
Teilhard had a vision of the work of God to build a future. By the future, he meant more than the building up of the physical world; he envisaged the irreversible ascent, materially and mentally and spiritually, to reach what he called the Omega Point. For Teilhard, the Omega Point is Christ who draws all things to himself. Omega is the point were the whole human species is united in Christ at the end of this world order. We sometimes call it the Second Coming of Christ or the Second Advent, or to use the original New Testament Greek term, the Parousia.
Understand that Teilhard was a scientist. He accepted all the principles of geological and biological evolution and he saw these processes leading toward a final consummation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
He does not put it this way, but I think of it as a birth. In Romans 8:22, the Apostle Paul speaks of the whole creation groaning in labor pains. God is creating something, and we are caught up in the process of creation.
Now birth is never a nice process. It is a chaos of blood and agony, and that explains why as we look around us it is hard for us to see God in action. We are caught up in the process and it is not a nice even orderly step-by-step thing. Sometimes it looks to us like God is not around. We see war and massacre and murder. We see the tumult of human affairs, and we are apt to think God does not care, but that is not true at all. God cares. God loves us. But God is trying to accomplish something. God is working through the creation, and primarily through us, to bring about the birth of a new order of things.
We see the birth pangs of the new order in several ways. There is the obvious technological and scientific progress. That is part of it. That is part of the birth. Then there is social progress. We are building larger and better networks of people. As Teilhard said, “The planet is becoming conscious of itself.” That is part of it. We are moving toward Teilhard’s Omega Point.
The obvious question is OK, what happens at that point? Well, this is not really spelled out for us. It is described symbolically in Revelation as the “passing away” of the “first heaven and the first earth” and the birth of “a new heaven and a new earth.”
Incidentally, this is almost a direct quote from Isaiah which reads, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (65:17). This is the end of the labor pains that Paul was talking about in Romans where all creation is renewed and transformed by God, and the transformation will be so complete that we will not even remember what it was like before.
Returning to Revelation 21, verse two describes the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. Notice that this New City has nothing to do with present day Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem comes from heaven. It is of divine manufacture.
The New Jerusalem is the people of God and they are further described as “as a bride adorned for her husband.” This “bride” contrasts with another city which John, the author of Revelation, describes in Chapters 17 and 18. He describes Babylon, the harlot city. Babylon was astonishing in its magnificence and was equally astonishing in its fall and destruction. Babylon represents the old evil human ways of doing things: the ways of force and coercion, the ways of intimidation and terrorization. Again, all that is done away with in God’s new city.
V3 tells us about a radical difference between the way things are now and the way things will be on the other side of the Omega Point. A voice proclaims that the home of God is now among his people. There is no more division between heaven and earth. We are entirely in God and with God.
Now, we say God is with us. And that is true. God helps us and blesses us, even now, but in the New Jerusalem we will be totally united in God. Or as Revelation puts it, God will dwell with us, and we will be his people, and God himself will be with us.
That is our future. We see evidence that our future is being born right now. There is a God Force at work and it does not have anything to do with guinea pigs or gravity. It is bringing us toward a new Jerusalem and a far better world and a home in God. And we say, thanks be to God. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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